Team news: Vermaelen will remain benched but retain captaincy

Arsenal manager Wenger speaks on the issue of his touchlined defender.

'Fantastic' Vermaelen will watch on from the dugout as the defensive marriage of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will, barring injuries and suspensions, continue to be the preferred partnership of choice by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

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The France and German internationals have forged a strong understanding, compensating for the other's weaknesses (Mertesacker is able to ensure he covers Koscielny's inferior spatial awareness and Koscielny can make up for Mertesacker's lack of pace) and have started 37 matches since Mertesacker signed for Arsenal and Wenger.

With a win:loss:draw ratio of 24-5-8 since that time and a concession haul of 35 goals, the Gunners are, on average, conceding at a rate fewer than one goal per game and are obtaining the victory 64% of the time.

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'Vermaelen is my captain so I rate him but it's difficult to change the current pair,' said Wenger, as quoted by the club's official website ahead of their home fixture against Norwich City at 15:00 local time, today. 'Unfortunately when you have 20 good players, nine good players don't play. That is the job of the players, to compete. We are in a job where you have to be ready when you are needed.'

Vermaelen has not featured in Wenger's selection since the club's 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup, a game Arsenal went on to win by virtue of a penalty shoot-out success after extra-time. Regardless of his absence from the pitch and while others wear the arm-band on match-day, Vermaelen will still act as the club's primary captain.

'The big players want to be with big players; the disadvantage of being with big players is that you are not that sure you play. I named him [Thomas] captain because he is a player you rate and a player with good behaviour as well. He is a top guy with a fantastic attitude.'

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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